As part of its contribution to the French-led Operation Barkhane in the Sahel, the Danish military has deployed two AgustaWestland EH101 transport helicopters to Gao, Mali.
Operation Barkhane is established to fight terrorism in the Sahel region of central and western Africa. The operation area covers Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
The deployment also consist of approximately 70 personnel and will last till December 2020 – a one-year period.
“This is the first time that Denmark is sending Danish soldiers to Operation Barkhane, and I know that it has taken a lot of preparation from the Armed Forces. That is why I am very pleased that the Armed Forces are now ready to also contribute to the counter-terrorism efforts in the Sahel region in cooperation with European allies, ”says Defense Minister Trine Bramsen.
Bramsen disclosed that the deployment will assist the Operation Barkhane forces with logistics and transportation. He also noted that transport helicopters are in demand in the French Operation Barkhane in the Sahel region of Africa.
“The EH101 helicopter has a large transport capacity and will make a difference in Operation Barkhane. At the same time, it will make everyday life more secure and flexible for the soldiers on the ground, because it is significantly more dangerous to transport on land than in the air, ”says Colonel Lieutenant Martin Birkedahl Nielsen, head of the Operations Staff Air Operations Section.
The purpose of the Danish contribution is to support the French-led efforts in the Sahel region with transport tasks of personnel and goods. Transport helicopters are in demand in the French Operation Barkhane in the Sahel region of Africa.
Due to the type of terrain and the geographic size seen throughout Operation Barkhane’s Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Mauritania are of operation, helicopters are a suitable means of transport.
“The operation covers a very large geographical area in a region plagued by a lack of infrastructure and climatic conditions, often limiting the ability to move in vehicles,” says Martin Birkedahl Nielsen.
The Armed Forces work closely with French defense and have also previously supported French operations, including from 1999 to 2014 in Kosovo where a Danish army contribution was included in the French force, in 2013 to Operation Serval with a C130 transport aircraft and earlier this year with the frigate Niels Juel in support of the French aircraft carrier group Charles de Gaulle in the Indian Ocean.
A member of the ground crew is pushed backwards by the helicopter’s down wash during a dust landing in the desert close to the Mexican border in connection with the squadron’s training before dispatch.
Prior to deployment, personnel have undergone thorough mission preparatory training where they have been prepared for the concrete, local conditions in everything from health to safety.
One of the major elements of this preparation has been the training of pilots, crew members and aircraft mechanics in operating in a desert area where dusts and clouds of sand around the helicopter make it difficult to orientate and entail extensive maintenance work of the helicopters.
Furthermore, all pilots, crew members and aircraft mechanics to be deployed to Mali have been trained on dust landings knoen as ‘Brown Out’ in the United States.
Brown Out is when the helicopter lands in areas with a lot of sand, which then swirls around the helicopter, reducing its visibility to near zero.